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While connected to discuss sustainable transformation: DevRes 2021

 “Transdisciplinary research and co-production can help the challenge of sustainable development – the pressure of acting now is making us rethink!” was shared in a panel of the Swedish Development Research Conference, DevRes 2021. The conference, from June 14-16, examined the challenges for ‘Advancing Sustainable Transformation’ during the Agenda 2030 era with the aim of improving conditions in the low-resource settings. The #DevRes2021 provided a space to explore, engage and enhance our learning and build our networks to continue to perform the essential research for development of any context and make a difference in our communities.

Furthermore, it had a few things which are not common to international conferences.

Formerly scheduled for June 2020, the conference was postponed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, demanding conducting it differently during the times when ‘we cannot travel or mingle’ as we always have. The action and decision were according to the need - ‘go digital’! Hence, making DevRes 2021 a fully virtual conference.

Realizing that this uncertain time has led to secluded learning spaces for our young graduates and/or current students it provided experiential learning, for a group of 12 young professionals, the DevRes Interns. The Interns weaved the communication and dissemination on social media channels giving it a larger spread and attraction. See the map below clearly showing ‘where all in the world’ the participants connected from across the globe.

This widespread global participation could only be achieved due to long-term preparations including adapting locally driven technological solutions allowing all great contributions from hundreds of researchers be presented live in real time over three days!

On the first day, during the panel dialogue with representatives from our funding organizations, SIDA, VR, FORMAS and Ministry for foreign affairs we heard the mandates and visions they have and are working towards while sharing their views on how research supports the development in the low-resource settings? Having a broad system-based approach, co-creating and co-designing new knowledge that is inter-disciplinary; can support implementation and enhance transformation. The same afternoon our keynote speaker, highlighted in light of the COVID-19 crisis how researchers are

suggesting the need for ‘return of the state and community’ emphasizing ‘reconnection of the political and civil processes’ while eloquently sharing communication for social change…!

The opening panel on the morning of the second day deliberated how much we don’t know especially about the basic amenities of life, for example, that 4.2 billion people still do not have safely managed sanitation and 2 billion people still lack access to basic sanitation. The panelists collectively voiced that replicating what works at one place shall work in others, does not hold true anymore. Moreover, raising the need for science to plan its communication differently because, “it is not enough to publish a scientific paper…more needs to be done”. The reconvening for a keynote in the afternoon left us thinking – ‘enough is enough’ – because without peace and justice can we really imagine development or for that matter sustainable development? The final panel discussion on the day three, was about one priority area (among others) for Sweden in Agenda 2030 - climate and health! The panelists lauded for ‘urgency, urgency, urgency for action’ and remember to ‘expect the unexpected when it comes to climate and sustainable development’.

Deeper discussions, online chats and networking were ongoing during the 7-9 parallel sessions on all days making about 50 sessions in total. The DevRes2021 concluded with a reflective and experience-sharing closing session where the ‘Interns’ expressed their acquirements on screen, including appearance of many other groups who made it possible – spotlighting – it is the PEOPLE behind Projects, Programs, Partnerships who support PROCESSES for them to actually happen. A round of applause conveying thanks to the leaderships of the host universities - Umeå University and Swedish Agricultural University; our funders - SIDA, VR and Formas for their continuous support; the various committees; and contributors and delegates for making it the success it has become.  

While gathered for a multi-disciplinary conference to forward the conversations about development in the low-resource settings, reflecting on ‘Development Aid and/or ‘Development Assistance for Health’ we took a pause to speculate and reframe AID, suggesting…

A – Address, Analyze and Advance with ACTION

I – Impart knowledge, for Implementation and create IMPACT

D – draw Directions, Decisions and Dimensions for DEVELOPMENT

& Support the Sustainability with Solidarity!

If reading all of the above has made you curious to know more – connect to watch what you missed or spread the word to your colleagues to register for free and access the platform for viewing the recording of various sessions (or direct them to the session you were part of 😊). The conference proceedings are available as such, till 11 Sept 2021.

Besides, if you are our first-time visitor – welcome and enjoy the conference!


Text: Raman Preet


Slideshow of pictures from Umeå University